Friday, March 05, 2010

How carrying a surfboard can change the world!

I surf longboards. I have a few boards, but two of them are 9'2" and wide and thick and have heavy glass. I often find that my arm gets tired if I have to carry one of them too far, but when that happens, I just put it on my head and let it rest on my skull. Unless there's a howling wind, it's easier to carry like this, and I find it works better for me than having my mal under my arm.

When I go to the beach with friends, it can be the case that I have the longest, heaviest board. Definitely not always but sometimes. And sometimes it's kind of funny; I think of the way I can be carrying this big heavy board down to the water, while my much stronger guy friends can skip along with their little, thin, light boards tucked under their arms, barely noticeable as far as weight goes. But it's ok and it wouldn't even cross my mind to ask them to swap with me. I wouldn't think to ask them to carry my big board for me, because it's not really an issue. It's the board I ride and I carry it all the time, so I'm used to it's cumbersome weight. It's a part of going surfing, it's a part of my choice to surf longboards.

And it's rare that anyone has ever even thought to ask me if I'd like to swap boards with them. In fact, only twice ever, that I can think of, now that I'm thinking about it. For the same reasons I don't ask them I guess - it isn't really an issue.

One time, ages ago, an old friend carried my board up the beach for me. I don't know why. He was already carrying his own mal and mine was on the sand because I'd been waiting for him and he just came up and picked it up and carried on with a board under each arm. I objected, but he said it was ok. It was certainly impressive, but we don't have the kind of friendship where we need to impress each other (we're more like feuding brother and sister than friends), and he knows that I can do things for myself, but it's just something he did. Thanks though!

And the other week another friend was visiting me in Byron, borrowing my shorter 7'4" to ride while I stayed on a mal. We walked a way around a headland to surf and as we walked he offered to swap boards with me, then instantly stopped and wondered if he'd said the wrong thing? It was very sweet. I declined, but not to prove a point, just because, well, I can carry my board. I carry it all the time, I'm used to it and it was probably easier for me to handle its breadth and length it than him, who usually rides boards that are much, much smaller. It was lovely and thoughtful of him to ask, and if I did need help I would have accepted, but I was fine. And also, carrying my own board is a part of surfing that means something to me.

In an overly considered way, it's part of how I feel connected and capable and strong in ways that I didn't used to. I can negotiate my long, heavy board long distances along paths and up and down clif tracks and through trees and across hot sand and carparks. I get it down to the water's edge and then I manage to get all 9-plus feet of it through and beyond the breaking waves and out the back. I weave it over and under and through the wash, sometimes struggling to hold onto it as the power of the wave throws me and my board back and as the rip pulls me in exactly the opposite direction from where I want to be. But I do it, and it's something that I am proud of.

Because I am not, historically, a very strong person. So until I knew I could do things like carry my longboard I would always ask for help if I came across something heavy that needed to be lifted. But now, I do it myself.

For example, I recently went and bought some bookshelves from a major-multinational-furniture-company-that-shall-remain-alluded-to, and when I was there I realised that the packaged furniture I wanted really needs two people to carry it. But I, in my fitted, pink dress and heels, wrangled two tall, un-assembled boxed bookcases off the shelves and onto a trolley and through the register. I somehow managed to (just) control the trolley and I wove my way through the labyrinthine carpark to my silver car and I re-organised the space inside and I somehow pushed and pulled the long, heavy packages in there. I struggled like hell and it sucked, but I did it.

But I couldn't have done that a few years ago. I would have had to go and find a (male) assistant to help me do all those things. I would have had to stand back and watch and marvel at his masculine strength as he did this job that I would never have attempted. It wouldn't have mattered that I wouldn't have done it, but it's just that I wouldn't have even thought that I could. And sure, I had to get my much stronger flatmate to carry the boxes up the stairs when I got home, but even I can recognise my limits. That's not the point though because when it counted, when I was alone and had few options, I was ok. I could do it.

And what would it mean if I couldn't carry my own board? It would limit me in a potential number of ways. Either I would have to only surf boards that I could carry or I would have to rely on someone stronger to transport my board for me when I wanted to surf. That's fine, but it would mean that surfing was a lot more negotiated. I imagine that the weight of those old wooden boards Back In The Day meant that surfing was negotiated for many women and men. The change in materials, the change in weight, opened surfing up to a host of new surfers. I love fibreglass for that, for giving me access to surfing.

So it's funny how these little things - like carrying a surfboard and being able to go surfing whenever I want - can come to mean something more. And it probably doesn't mean anything to anyone else, but to me, it means the world!

2 comments:

  1. materiality! s. likes this....

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  2. materiality! s. likes this....

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